NOT enough nurses are working on many wards at Colchester General Hospital, new figures reveal.

A new directive by NHS England has forced hospital trusts to disclose nursing levels on every hospital ward.

The data for Colchester Hospitals Trust revealed there were so many unfilled vacancies on eight wards the situation had been added to the management’s “risk register” as an area of concern.

The trust insisted overall there was only a 8.2 per cent vacancy rate amongst its 1,500 strong nursing workforce.

A spokesman said: “In March this year, we announced that we would be recruiting an additional 31 nurses, including 10 new posts on the Stroke Unit and the same number in the Emergency Department.

“It is proving more difficult to recruit to some specialties than others, including care of the elderly, stroke and the Emergency Department. Clearly, some of this difficulty is the direct result of expanding the workforce in those areas.

“In the interim, we are using bank and agency staff through our contract with NHS Professionals, a specialist organisation within the NHS recruiting and supplying temporary doctors, nurses, and corporate staff.

“Patient safety is our main priority and we work hard to cover any shortfalls in nursing staff by using staff flexibly, using NHS Professionals and recruiting when we have vacancies.

“If need be, as is the case on Birch Ward, we close beds if we believe that we cannot staff a ward safely.”